Saturday, 15 October 2016

Jean Alexander, Corrie's Finest

 

I don't blog much about Coronation Street these days and I thought long and hard about whether to add my words to the many, many tributes to the late actress Jean Alexander. I find writing tributes to well known figures really challenging. We feel like we have known people like Jean, Anne Kirkbride and Tony Warren for much of our lives because they've always been there. What we do know well are their characters, their personas,what we've read about them in books and magazines or heard from them in interviews.

The lines are so blurred, especially these days. I don't know a great deal about Jean Alexander the lady and I reckon that's probably how she would have liked it. She was interviewed on television, she did write an autobiography and she did make her views known on what she thought of the modern Coronation Street. She was no Eileen Derbyshire, no latter day Greta Garbo. However Jean Alexander quite obviously did not court celebrity and chose to live a quiet, normal life in her local community, despite the fact she'd spent decades in the public eye on the television screens of millions of viewers playing one of the most iconic characters of all time.

 

Jean's contribution cannot be underestimated. As Hilda Ogden, she gained millions of loyal fans and enlivened Coronation Street for 23 years. She was the true heart of what Corrie is all about and what it hopes to represent, even today. Her performances as Hilda were multi-dimensional, fully formed and completely believable. Yes she was funny, a naturally gifted comic actor blessed with brilliant comedy timing. Yes she tugged at the heart strings, always losing out on the finer things, downtrodden and dowdy, cliinging on as life proved unrelentingly harsh. And yes she was feisty, calling out the likes of Annie Walker, Ena Sharples and most of all, Elsie Tanner. The audience could root for her and that's what made Hilda a classic character and Jean a fantastic actress.

Yet Hilda wasn't always likeable. She could be mean spirited, harsh, gossipy. Jean had the most marvellous facial expression when Hilda had stumbled on a juicy titbit of gossip and it was almost vicious. Hilda couldn't wait to capitalise on someone else's misfortune, probably to forget about her own. Jean gave us the full character when it would have been so easy to drift into cliche.

 

I loved the muriel; I loved the set up with Stan and Eddie Yeats; I loved the high pitched singing as she bottomed out the Rovers Select. I've almost ruined the DVD which contains the episode from 1977 when Hilda holds a seance with Elsie, Bet, Gail and Suzie. Jean reigned at Corrie in the days when almost an entire episode could revolve around Stan's chickens and that was because the characterisations were just so strong. Like so many fans, my two favourite Hilda moments will come as no surprise whatsoever. 

I really do believe the episode which sees Stan and Hilda embark on their second honeymoon is the finest half hour of Coronation Street ever produced. Other characters featured fleetingly but it was pretty much a two hander between Jean and Bernard Youens. It was the pinnacle of their on-screen partnership and encapsulated all that was and is great about Corrie. It was laugh out loud funny, it was quietly humorous in ways we all recognise and know ourselves, it was sad, gentle, touching and dotted with moments of real pathos. It also had one of the finest, most quoted lines of all time...woman, Stanley, woman...

 

For me though, the most memorable scene Jean Alexander filmed and Coronation Street ever broadcast saw Hilda left alone at the end of the day after Stanley's funeral. She'd been stoic throughout, keeping it together and looking after all at the funeral tea. She only allowed her grief to show when it came time to unwrap the hospital package of Stan's personal effects. It was such a quiet, understated scene - no hysteria. As Hilda opened up Stan's spectacle case, the grief came bubbling to the surface and the viewers are left with the sound of Hilda's sobbing as the credits rolled in silence. It was a rare moment for an actress and a character who many saw mainly as light relief or great comedy value. For me, Coronation Street has never bettered that scene or that performance.

 

Rest in peace Jean. 



You can follow me on Twitter @GraemeN82


Like us on Facebook | Follow us on Twitter | Download our free App | Visit Corrie.net


NEW!
Coronation Street: The Official Colouring Book
Available now!



Please read our advice for leaving comments on the Coronation Street Blog

All original work on the Coronation Street Blog is covered by a Creative Commons License

7 comments:

Tvor said...

Lovely.

Greg said...

Lovely tribute

Anonymous said...

Lovely tribute. She was a real lady and a wonderful actress - I feel in some ways that I have lost a neighbor.

Rapunzel said...

Perfect

Ryan Oxley said...

Such a wonderful eulogy to our icon of the street. Subtle yet poignantly written. Well done Graeme!.
An actress that left the street in 1984!. I personally wasn't around then yet those scenes still resonate with such clarity, hilarity and the singing!. A fine actress from a bygone era..

Nadia said...

This is a very fitting tribute to a wonderful actor.

Anonymous said...

she left the street on Christmas day 1987 - 27 million viwers certainly remember that :)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Our Top 10 Blog Posts in last 7 days (automatically updated)

Click on a name to find out more about your Corrie favourites!

aidan connor alan halsall alex bain alison king alison sinclair all about soap awards amy barlow amy kelly andrea beckett andrew paul andy carver andy whyment anna windass anne kirkbride antony cotton audrey roberts awards barbara knox barlows battleaxes becky mcdonald behind the scenes ben price ben tagoe bet gilroy bet lynch beth tinker bethany platt betty driver betty turpin betty williams betty's hotpot bev callard bev unwin beverley callard bill roache bill tarmey billy mayhew billy the vicar blanche hunt brooke vincent bruno langley Callum Logan can i visit the coronation street set Canada canadian coronation street fans cardy o'donnell carla barlow carla connor carmel morgan catherine tyldesley cathy matthews celebrities on coronation street characters joining coronation street characters leaving coronation street charlie condou cherylee houston chesney brown chris fewtrell chris gascoyne claire king classic corrie clothes worn on coronation street colson smith competition conversation street coronation street art coronation street fan events coronation street fan of the week coronation street fans coronation street funerals coronation street history coronation street in canada coronation street look-a-like coronation street map coronation street men coronation street merchandise coronation street news coronation street spoilers Coronation Street The Tour coronation street weekly update coronation street weekly updates coronation street writers craig charles damon rochefort daran little david neilson david platt debbie oates debbie rush deirdre barlow deirdre hunt deirdre Langton deirdre perm deirdre rachid Dennis Tanner dev alahan eileen derbyshire eileen grimshaw ellie-louise leach elsie tanner emily bishop emily nugent ena sharples exclusive interview famous people who have been in corrie fat brenda faye windass fiz brown fiz stape flaming nora florizel street flying ducks gail hillman Gail McIntyre gail platt gail potter gail rodwell gail tilsley gary windass gary's army diaries gay and lesbians gay men in coronation street gay men in soaps gay women in soaps granada manchester coronation street set granada studios gurn of the week helen worth hilda ogden hilda ogden's curlers Hope Stape hot pot how to contact coronation street inside soap magazine izzy armstrong jack and vera duckworth jack p shepherd jane danson jane danson's husband jason grimshaw jennie mcalpine jigsaw jimmi harkishin job vacancies at coronation street julie carp julie goodyear julie hesmondhalgh julie jones julie walters kabin karen mcdonald kate ford katherine kelly kathy jones katie mcglynn Katy Cavanagh ken barlow kevin webster kim crowther kirk sutherland kylie platt kylie turner kym marsh kym ryder leanne barlow leanne battersby leanne tilsley leanne's real mother les dennis lisa george liz mcdonald lloyd mullaney maggie jones malcolm hebden maria connor maria gordon maria sutherland mark llewellin maxine's bench michael le vell michelle connor mikey north mikey north miley windass minnie caldwell Morrissey mothers on the cobbles new set newton and ridley nick tilsley nick's bistro nigel pivaro no.1 Coronation Street no.11 coronation street no.13 coronation street no.3 coronation street no.5 coronation street no.6 coronation street no.7 coronation street no.9 coronation street norris cole norris cole's brother nuttalls brewery odd side of the street official coronation street website oldham coliseum on location outside broadcast paddy mcguinness pat phoenix patti claire patti clare paula lane peter barlow peter gunn pets on coronation street phil collinson Philip Lowrie pickled jo pictures of the coronation street set pigeons pillars of the community platt family props qasim akhtar returning characters rita fairclough rita littlewood rita sullivan road to coronation street rovers bosses rovers fire rovers return rovers return barmaids rovers return fire rovers return landlady roy and hayley roy cropper roys rolls ryan thomas sally webster sally and tim sally dynevor sally webster sally whittaker sam aston samia smith sarah platt schmeichel sean tully simon barlow simon crowther simon gregson sinead tinker sophie webster state of the street steve mcdonald storyline speculation storylines streetcars stuart blackburn stuffed marrow sue cleaver sue johnston sue nicholls sylvia cropper sylvia goodwin terence maynard terry duckworth the corrie years the kabin the road to coronation street through the years tina mcintyre todd grimshaw tony warren Tony Warren inspiration tours of coronation street tracy barlow trafford set tram crash tricia hopkins tyrone dobbs underworld underworld sign unofficial book vera duckworth victoria court fire walking tours weatherfield weatherfield arms weatherfield council weatherfield county weatherfield county football club weatherfield fire station weatherfield gazette weatherfield haulage Weatherfield Open Days weatherfield style weatherfield wayfarer wedding wedding dress weddings weekly awards weekly update where have you seen william roache William Roache Interview window cleaners writers for soaps